Police Probe Suspicious Fire at NJ Synagogue as Attempted Murder

The fire comes amid several anti-Semitic incidents in New Jersey.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Someone's targeting synagogues and other places of worship in the area. Four separate communities have seen some form of hate crime in recent weeks, the latest Wednesday morning at a rabbi's home in Rutherford. Pat Battle reports. (Published Wednesday, Jan 11, 2012)

    Authorities are probing what they consider to be a small, suspicious fire within a northern New Jersey synagogue in a county that has experienced a spate of anti-Semitic attacks over the last month.       

    No one was injured when someone threw several objects, including a rigged aerosol can and a Molotov cocktail, into the synagogue in Rutherford, but the county prosecutor said authorities are investigating the incident as an attempted murder case.

    The synagogue is one component of the building, which also houses Congregation Beth El, a school and Rabbi Nosson Schuman and his family.

    One of the firebomb devices crashed through Schuman's second-floor bedroom window at about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, burning him on the hand, he told NBC New York. His wife, five children and mother- and father-in-law escaped unscathed.

    "I saw the fire streaming through my window," Schuman said. "There were flames on the wall, on the blanket, on the ceiling. I thank God we got out."

    While prosecutors are considering religious hatred a possible motive, Schuman says the modest congregation in the quiet residential Rutherford neighborhood has never before been threatened.

    "We are such a small congregation," he said. "If we can be targeted, anyone can be targeted."

    The fire comes one day before law enforcement and representatives from more than 80 synagogues and Jewish day schools are expected to discuss three separate incidents targeting Jewish temples in the county.   

    There was a suspicious fire at a temple in Paramus and anti-Semitic graffiti incidents at synagogues in Maywood and Hackensack in the past few weeks.

    It wasn't immediately clear if the incidents were connected.